The Coming of the Lord
January 19th, 1975 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-19-75 10:50 a.m.
On the radio we welcome you. On television we welcome you. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Parousia; literally, the presence, translated in the text “the coming of the Lord.” Para, alongside, ousia, the word, “to be”—literally; “the being alongside, the presence, the coming, the appearing” of the Lord.
After a long, long time this will be the last sermon, the concluding sermon in the catholic epistles, the general epistles; James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Jude. The sermons will be published in two or three books, and this will be the concluding one from James 5:7-9.
“Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the,” parousia, the coming alongside, the presence, the “coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman,” the farmer, the Greek word is george, g-e-o-r-g-e, george. If your name is George, your name is farmer. If your name is Irene, your name is peace. If your name is Margaret, your name is pearl. All of those are just common Greek words. So this; “Behold, the husbandman,” the farmer, “waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and [hath] long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the” parousia, “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another.” Don’t have a bad, volative spirit toward each other, “brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the Judge standeth” at the door, “before the door” [James 5:7-9].
In the little time we have this hour there are two things in the text that we shall try, under God, to present. One will be the coming of the Lord, waiting in patience before it [James 5:7-8]. And the other is the coming of the Lord, the Judge standing at the door [James 5:9].
In my preparation for the sermon, I read a book about the Revelation, the Apocalypse. It is by a very learned professor, a theological teacher. And the thesis of his book is this: that there is no prophecy in the Revelation. It would be meaningless, he said, to those persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire who were groaning under the iron heal and mailed fist of the Caesar, to say to them, “Be strengthened and be comforted, for a thousand years from now this will come to pass and that will come to pass.” So he took the Book of the Revelation and made all of it apply to something that was happening then and there. His thesis was, I repeat, that it is no comfort to God’s people to tell them that there’s an event going to come to pass far off.
I wonder what the professor would think about my text. When the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, James, the Lord’s brother, exhorts his people to be patient unto the coming of the Lord [James 5:8], it’s already been almost two thousand years, and He hasn’t come yet. Is there comfort and strength in the promise of the immanency (i-m-m) in the immanency of the return of Jesus? Always, the Bible says, always, we are to live our lives in the soon return of our Savior. To us, it may be a long time, but not to Him. He says that a thousand years with God are but as a day [Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8]—that would mean, then, that our Lord has been gone just about two days. Maybe the third day He will return.
But, in any event, the whole Scriptures are welded together by that bonding expectancy and hope, that our lives are not lived in vain, but there is Someone—a great God and Savior—who is soon coming [James 5:8]. He is standing, even, at the door [James 5:9]. And in the light of that, we are encouraged to be patient and expectant and to live in that blessed hope of our soon victorious redemption [James 5:7].
I want us to look just for a moment at that word “patient.” For example, Paul will write in Philippians 4:5, “Let your epieikes be known unto all men, for the Lord is at hand.” Epieikes, what would that mean? It means, literally, if I can use several words in English to put it together, it means literally a humbled and bowed yieldedness and surrenderedness in the presence of the Lord. Not ostentatious, or proud, or lifted up, but the life of the Christian is always to be one of gentle humility, of bowing, in yielded surrender to the will and to the presence of the Lord [Philippians 4:5].
I think I could present that in a contrast that I found in my study. There is a Christian, unknown to me; there is a Christian who has written a parody on this famous poem by William Henley entitled “Invictus.” Invictus is the Latin word for unconquerable or invincible. And Henley writes:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
[“My Captain,” Dorothea Day, 1914]
There’s not a schoolboy that hasn’t studied that in English and American literature. This is the parody written by a humble Christian:
Out of the light that dazzles me,
Bright as the sun from pole to pole,
I thank the God I know to be
For Christ the conqueror of my soul.
Since His the sway of circumstance,
I would not wince nor cry aloud.
Under that rule which men call chance
My head with joy is humbly bowed.
Beyond this place of sin and tears
That life with Him! And His the aid,
That the menace of the years.
Keeps, and shall keep me unafraid.
I have no fear, though strait the gate,
He cleared from punishment the scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate.
Christ is the Captain of my soul.
This is the spirit of the Christian life, that your epieikes, your gentle yieldedness, your humble surrenderness, be seen before all men, for the Lord is at hand [James 5:8]. This is the meaning of the patient waiting for the coming of our Christ. And he uses an illustration for it. “Behold,” he says, “the husbandman,” the farmer, “waits for the early and the latter rain, planting the crop and looking to God for the harvest” [James 5:7]. He plants the seed in expectancy.
I saw a picture on the front page of our daily newspaper. Our government had sent a great tonnage of wheat to starving India, and the picture was not for the purpose that the United States sent it, it was seed to be planted in the ground for a harvest, but the picture was—the hungry hordes were tearing apart the bins, and were seizing the golden seed, and were consuming it in their starvation. My heart went out to the hungry people, but at the same time I thought, “How tragic! Instead of the patient waiting for the harvest when the seed is planted, they seize it and destroy it for their lack of patience.”
This is what feeds our mortal frames; the seed is planted and the farmer looks to God to speak to the clouds to distill the rains, and to the seeds to quicken and to germinate, and then cultivating, and plowing, and waiting, he expects the harvest. He lives in that expectancy, he prepares for it [James 5:7]. And when it comes, he’s filled with thankfulness to God who gave it. So our lives are to be lived before the Lord [Colossians 3:23]. This is not our home, it is there [Philippians 3:20]. Our reward is not here, it is there [Colossians 3:24]. Our expectancy is not here, it is there [Matthew 5:12]. And we live in the light of the soon coming of our blessed Jesus [James 5:8]. Our inheritance is not here, it is there [1 Peter 1:4]. Our home is in heaven, to which Jesus will take us when He comes again [John 14:1-3].
In the days of the long ago, when there was master and slave, the master died, and the old slave was asked if his master had gone to heaven. And the old slave replied, “No, sir. He never went to heaven. All through the years of his life, wherever my master went, he prepared for the journey. He packed his clothes, he made his itinerary, and he followed a plan. But he never mentioned heaven. And he made no preparation for it. And my master never went to heaven.” Isn’t that tragic? No expectancy, no preparation, no planting and cultivating and tilling. No looking up to the face of God—just to die in the night, and in the dark, and in the black, and in the grave, and nothing of hope and heaven beyond. That is not the Christian. He lives his life looking up in expectancy, in faithfulness, waiting for the coming of the Lord [Philippians 3:20].
The second thing is: we are to be kind and gracious to one another, forgiving and loving, “not grudging one another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the Judge standeth before the door” [James 5:9]. He is just right there. So this brings to us the second thing in the coming of the Lord—that is the great judgment day for the child of God [2 Corinthians 5:9-11].
There are several judgments that are mentioned, named, in the Scriptures. One is the judgment upon sin [1 John 2:2]. That was at Calvary, when Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And that judgment is here and now. Whether a man is saved or not is not determined in the consummation, at the end of the age, that judgment is here, it is now.
John wrote in John 3:18 “He that believeth [on Him] is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already,” now, “because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” It will not be there that it is determined whether you are lost or saved, that judgment is now. It is this minute. I’m either saved or I’m lost now. Not till then, but now. The judgment of our salvation, the forgiveness of our sins, is now. I accept or I reject and I’m judged thereon now. I’m saved or lost now [John 3:18].
There’s another judgment in the Bible called the judgment of the nations. In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, all the Gentile nations are gathered before the Lord as He is seated upon His great, glorious throne [Matthew 25:31-46].
There is a judgment in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel on Israel [Ezekiel 20:33-38], when Israel is in the land, all of them regathered from the Diaspora, they shall be judged in the land.
There is a judgment upon the wicked dead in the twentieth chapter of the Book of the Apocalypse; there is a great white throne [Revelation 20:11-15]. And from the face of Him, the heavens and the earth do flee away [Revelation 20:11]. And the wicked, the lost, stand before Him to receive the deeds done in their day, in their flesh [Revelation 20:12-13]. Ah! What a horrible day that will be!
There is another judgment, this is the Christian judgment. “Behold, the Judge standeth before the door” [James 5:9]. That judgment is: when the Lord takes us to Himself in rapture, and we are caught up to meet our Lord in the air; the first great thing that shall happen when the dead are raised and those who are living at the coming of the Lord are transformed, immortalized, glorified, in a moment, in the twinkling of the eye, at the last trump [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]. When all of God’s people are gathered to the Savior, we are taken up with Him into glory [John 14:3], and there the first order will be the judgment of the Christian [2 Corinthians 5:10]. Not as to whether we’re saved or lost, that judgment is now [John 3:18]. But as the wicked dead are judged at the great white throne according to their deeds [Revelation 20:11-12], that is, they receive the reward of their deeds, so the Christian is caught up and stands at what the Bible calls the bēma, the judgment seat of Christ, and there we receive our reward from the hands of Jesus [2 Corinthians 5:10].
He says, for example, in the Apocalypse, “Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give to every man [according] as his work shall be” [Revelation 22:12]. What we do is written down with the point of a diamond in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 20:12], and these works that we’ve done, these deeds that we’ve sought to do become our inheritance and our reward forever and ever [2 Corinthians 5:10]. That is why the reward is not given you when you die. If the Lord tarries and delays and we fall asleep in the earth, we don’t receive our reward when we die because you don’t die when you die. Your life lives on, your influence lives on, in your children, in the people who knew you, in the family, among friends. And it continues on and on and on, as long as time shall last. And only God is able to unravel the skein and to ferret out the influence of your life and give you the reward of what you’ve done at the end, at the consummation of the age [Romans 2:6-10].
And how wonderful, and how beautiful, and how precious does the Christian live in expectancy of what God will do for him in heaven [1 Corinthians 9:25]. Maybe poor here, but rich up there! Maybe crippled or blind here, but young, and beautiful, and well, and strong, up there. May live in a hovel here, live in a mansion there. Maybe unknown here, not a half a dozen people care whether you live or die, but up there known as God knows me, as God knows us. Ah! The glory, and the wonder, and the blessedness, and the amazing, marvelous celestial goodness of what God has in store for those who love Him! [1 Corinthians 2:9].
That’s the way the Christian is to live—as unto God, knowing that the Judge standeth at the door [James 5:9]. Any moment, any day, any hour, there is nothing between us and the rapture—the taking away into heaven [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]—no prophecies to be fulfilled, He is coming unannounced, unheralded, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Just suddenly we are there in the presence of the Lord [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17]. And to live and to work in that expectancy [James 5:7-8], that God knows and that He will reward His people [1 Corinthians 9:25], is the fullness of life. Not doing what we do for the praise of men, for election, for honor, for exaltation, for elevation. No! We’re not doing it for that. Just doing what I do for the love of Jesus and depending upon Him to reward us. That’s why our lives are to be filled with good things and why we ought to redeem the time [John 9:4].
Some, once in a while, when a man is up here in this pulpit preaching, speaking, and I’m seated there, as he speaks, I sometimes think of things beyond what he’s saying. Here’s an instance. Last Sunday morning, in his annual pilgrimage to our church in behalf of the Gideon’s, businessmen who, at their own expense, distribute Bibles all over the world, Mr. Zondervan of the Zondervan Publishing House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, stood here in this place at this hour and made his appeal for the distribution of the Holy Scriptures. And in that appeal, he held up in his hand a little white New Testament, just so big. And he said, one of the things that the Gideon’s do is, they take these little white New Testaments, and they give them to all the nurses of America. He said one of the Christian nurses happened to have that little white New Testament in her pocket in her uniform. And the pressure of it was seen by one of her patients who was a very wicked, and very lost man.
He thought it was a package of cigarettes. So, seeing it there in her pocket, the outline of it, he asked her what brand she used. And she said “no brand,” took it out and held it up and said, “it is a little New Testament, the Word of God.” She asked, “Could I read to you out of it?” He acquiesced and she read to him from the Holy Scriptures. And as the time passed, then she read to him again and again, and yet again. And under the influence of the Holy Spirit using the Word of God borne to His heart, the man was wonderfully saved. He confessed his sins, asked God to forgive him, and received the Lord Jesus into his heart.
And Mr. Zondervan said, as the days passed, the Christian nurse had a strange impulsive, intuitive feeling, to go see the man. So she went to his room and there, as she stood looking at him, he sat up in bed, and as though he were looking at someone standing at the foot of the bed, he raised his arms and cried, “My Lord and my God!” And fell back and his spirit was translated to heaven.
That was the wonderful story of Mr. Zondervan. And I thought, as you did when you heard it, Oh! Bless the name of God for the little Book. And bless the name of God for the Holy Spirit who carried its convicting message to the heart of that lost and wicked man. And praise God that he turned and accepted Jesus and was saved. Oh, how wonderful! How wonderful! But, as I say, sometimes, I can’t help but think just beyond. What a tragedy! What a sadness! To give his life to evil and to the world and just offer a soul to Jesus! What a tragedy to spend his influence and his days serving mammon and bring just a shell, just a husk, just a chaff to the Lord. What a sadness to go empty handed—nothing to lay at His blessed feet. When I was a boy I heard a song like that.
Must I go, and empty-handed?
Must I meet my Savior so?
Not one soul with which to greet Him,
Must I empty handed go?
[“Must I Go, and Empty-handed?” Charles Luther]
O Lord! How infinitely better to bring to Jesus a life as well as a soul. Do you remember how old Jesus was when He said, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” [Luke 2:49]. Did He say that on the cross? Did He say that in the Galilean, or Berean, or Judean ministries? Did He say it at the threshold of manhood? When did He say that? “Wist ye not, know ye not, [that] I must be about My Father’s business?” [Luke 2:49].
He said that when He was twelve years old [Luke 2:42]. My life must be involved, my days must be taken up, my years must be spent in the service of the great God who made me. I must do that. We must do that. While it is day, we must work. “The night is coming, when no man can work” [John 9:4]. While I have now, I must do good for Jesus. While I have my mind, and while I have strength, God help me to bring my best to lay at His dear feet. Then, Lord, someday, maybe not for what I did but for what I intended to do, God, receive me and bless me, in Thy presence, in Thy goodness and grace, in Thy Spirit, and in Thy wonderful name, amen.
This is our appeal to you this morning, to give your life and your heart to Jesus. As the Holy Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand up singing, stand up coming. “Here I am, pastor, I’ve made the decision now. This is my wife, these are our children. All of us are coming,” or, just one somebody you. If in the last chair, on the last row, in the topmost balcony, there’s time and to spare, come, while we stand and while we sing.
COMING OF THE LORD
I. Appeal for patient waiting
on Revelation – there is no prophecy in the book
States it would be meaningless, of no comfort to the suffering Christians if it
was a thousand years from them
in James exhorts his people to be patient unto the coming of the Lord
1. It has been 2,000
2. To us it may be a
long time, but not to Him (Psalm 90:4)
1. William Henley’s Invictus
2. Christian parody of Invictus
husbandman in patient waiting(James 5:7)
1. Planting the seed
Picture of starving in India consuming the seed
2. Looking up to
3. Patient waiting for
4. Praying, working in
II. The day of Christian judgment(James 5:9)
Upon sin, at the cross(John 3:18)
the Gentile nations(Matthew 25:31-46)
Upon Israel(Ezekiel 20:33-38)
Upon the lost, their reward for their work (Revelation
– rewarded(1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians
4:15-17, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Revelation 22:12)
Zondervan’s story of nurse with New Testament
Tragedy to spend influence and life serving mammon and bring just a shell,
chaff to the Lord
a. Poem, “Must I go,
How much better to bring Jesus a life and soul(Luke